Shea Weber will have the honour of representing the Canadiens as an alternate captain next season, and that is a very good addition to the leadership group. Weber captained his former team in Nashville for some time, and has worn a letter for Canada internationally as well. Giving him a letter in Montreal is a well-deserved honour.
But there was plenty of chatter following the announcement. Mostly good, but there seems to exist a strong contingent of fans who believe that the captaincy should have been removed from the sweater of Max Pacioretty, and awarded to Weber.
That would have been a terrible idea.
First of all, Pacioretty was voted as captain by his teammates just one year ago. The majority of those players who cast a ballot in the vote are still around. To simply hand that letter over to the new guy would undermine the selection process that they went through.
Don't get me wrong, I think that Weber would be a fine choice as a captain. He has the pedigree as a player, and by essentially all accounts he is very well liked and respected by his teammates. The thing is, the Habs already have a captain. Perhaps if there was a job vacancy in that regard, they would have done well to consider him, but someone already holds that position.
And what exactly did Pacioretty do to deserve being stripped of the captaincy anyway?
In short, absolutely nothing. True though it may be that his point totals last year fell a little short of what he is capable of putting up, people tend to get a little too wrapped up in totals. In reality, Pacioretty had a very solid season, He just didn't flirt with that 40-goal mark like he often does. Does he really need to do that every year? I do not believe that he does.
True though it may be that the Canadiens went through a terrible collapse last year, you can't place all the blame on Pacioretty. He can hardly be faulted for the litany of injuries that befell the club, or the fact that they couldn't adequately replace the bodies that went down.
True though it may be that Max is known to be a pretty quiet and reserved guy, since when is that an impediment to being captain? The stoic Jean Beliveau is one of the more beloved figures in Canadiens history, and he was always a quiet and reserved man himself. That doesn't mean that when he spoke, his teammates didn't respect him to the highest degree.
So what exactly could Pacioretty have done differently last year to steer the team in a better direction as captain? Well, again, not very much. Last season was a disaster, there's no sugar coating it, but to strip the captaincy from him in response to a failed year that was in no way his fault would be a gross oversight. A healthy Carey Price will be the biggest determining factor in Montreal's future success, not captaincy.
Again, I find Shea Weber to be an excellent addition to the leadership group, and I do believe that he has done enough in the NHL to earn the honour of wearing an A next year. I don't think he needs the captaincy to be a leader on the team. A true leader commands respect whether or not they have a letter on their jersey.
Max Pacioretty is this team's captain. He earned it by tearing up the competition on a bargain contract. He earned it because he's been with the team through two terrible seasons, and a horrific injury, so he knows how to bounce back. Most importantly, he earned it because his teammates decided that he should have it.
The right thing to do is to let him see it through, and that is what the Canadiens are doing. It was the right call to give Weber a letter, and it was also the right call to let Pacioretty keep his.